Retiring Arizona Prison Watch...

This site was originally started in July 2009 as an independent endeavor to monitor conditions in Arizona's criminal justice system, as well as offer some critical analysis of the prison industrial complex from a prison abolitionist/anarchist's perspective. It was begun in the aftermath of the death of Marcia Powell, a 48 year old AZ state prisoner who was left in an outdoor cage in the desert sun for over four hours while on a 10-minute suicide watch. That was at ASPC-Perryville, in Goodyear, AZ, in May 2009.

Marcia, a seriously mentally ill woman with a meth habit sentenced to the minimum mandatory 27 months in prison for prostitution was already deemed by society as disposable. She was therefore easily ignored by numerous prison officers as she pleaded for water and relief from the sun for four hours. She was ultimately found collapsed in her own feces, with second degree burns on her body, her organs failing, and her body exceeding the 108 degrees the thermometer would record. 16 officers and staff were disciplined for her death, but no one was ever prosecuted for her homicide. Her story is here.

Marcia's death and this blog compelled me to work for the next 5 1/2 years to document and challenge the prison industrial complex in AZ, most specifically as manifested in the Arizona Department of Corrections. I corresponded with over 1,000 prisoners in that time, as well as many of their loved ones, offering all what resources I could find for fighting the AZ DOC themselves - most regarding their health or matters of personal safety.

I also began to work with the survivors of prison violence, as I often heard from the loved ones of the dead, and learned their stories. During that time I memorialized the Ghosts of Jan Brewer - state prisoners under her regime who were lost to neglect, suicide or violence - across the city's sidewalks in large chalk murals. Some of that art is here.

In November 2014 I left Phoenix abruptly to care for my family. By early 2015 I was no longer keeping up this blog site, save occasional posts about a young prisoner in solitary confinement in Arpaio's jail, Jessie B.

I'm deeply grateful to the prisoners who educated, confided in, and encouraged me throughout the years I did this work. My life has been made all the more rich and meaningful by their engagement.

I've linked to some posts about advocating for state prisoner health and safety to the right, as well as other resources for families and friends. If you are in need of additional assistance fighting the prison industrial complex in Arizona - or if you care to offer some aid to the cause - please contact the Phoenix Anarchist Black Cross at PO Box 7241 / Tempe, AZ 85281.

until all are free -

MARGARET J PLEWS (June 1, 2015)


ANTICOLONIAL zines, stickers, actions, power

Taala Hooghan Infoshop

Kinlani/Flagstaff Mutual AID


The group for direct action against the prison state!

Black Lives Matter PHOENIX METRO

Black Lives Matter PHOENIX METRO
(accept no substitutions)



PHOENIX: Trans Queer Pueblo


AZ Prison Watch BLOG POSTS:

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Prosecuting Innocence: The Scottsdale Police shooting of David Hulstedt

follow link to:

Another victim of Scottsdale police violence has come to my attention this weekend, thanks to one of the local activists hot on the Scottsdale Police Department's tail, who posted the link to this guy's family's website to Facebook.

David has a psychiatric disability, according to court records, and was having a crisis at the time this all happened - they'll try to make that work against him, so don't let that keep you from supporting him. In fact, it makes it all the more imperative that the community embrace him and his family right now to assure that he's not further brutalized by the criminal justice system - at least, not without a world of witnesses. 

Let the following be a lesson to all who own a video camera - keep it out and use it whenever you see the police stop someone. You never know whose life you may save. If we're truly dedicated to fighting police brutality, the place to start would be to see him through the effort to criminally prosecute him after he filed suit against the bastards. 

If David or his family are out there and want some support from other folks who are fighting police and prison violence, let me know. My name is Peggy, my number is 480-580-6807

------this occurred in 2008. David's prosecution is on-going------ 

This is the story of David Hulstedt, the young man shot in the back as he walked away from officers Scottsdale, Arizona police officers on November 7, 2008. David, who was unarmed, and carrying his toddler, is now paralyzed. David's little daughter suffered a fractured skull when she fell to the ground. As widely reported in the media, Mr. Hulstedt was undergoing treatment for a mental health condition when he called 911 asking for help from the Arizona Governor. Instead of responding with calm and caring, a Scottsdale police dispatcher broadcast that there was a "crisis" at the residence, and that a little girl was crying in the background, and that his parents were trying to get the little girl away from David who was refusing to give back the baby.

That little girl was just David's daughter who was crying because she needed a new diaper.

The Inappropriate Police Response.

Within minutes, Scottsdale officers ordered David's parents out of the home. David repeatedly called his father, pleading for him to return to the house. His father asked to go back to the house but police would not let him. David also repeatedly called his brother, Eric. In the video to right, Eric explains that he asked police to let him go to his brother. Police refused. David’s father called his lawyer who tried to speak with David, until Police intervened and ordered him to stop.

As you'll hear and see through the video clips to the right, David's family urged the police to let them help David, but police refused. David said he would give his daughter to his brother. Time after time, the family made progress. But the police did everything the could to stop that progress, and even confiscated the cell phones being used by the family.  Police intentionally isolated David from the very support group that he needed. David was never armed. David never threatened police. David never threatened his family. Minutes after police took away David’s lifeline to his family, lawyer and minister, David in desperation allegedly told police: “If you don’t let my brother come inside, I’ll pile drive my daughter into the ground.” But David would not and did not do that. Over the next 20 minutes police negotiators told David that they were there to help him. They were not going to hurt him. They proclaimed themselves “professionals.” They guaranteed David that they would not hurt him. All he had to do was come out with his daughter.

He did.

The Shooting.

David walked outside the house and asked officers to back up. He wanted to go to his Dad. He wanted to go to the street to see his family, not knowing the family had been held in seclusion by Scottsdale Police. Four officers, staged immediately outside the front door, took a couple of steps back to give David some space.

Arizona police officers are trained to safely resolve problems with people in mental crisis by assigning one person to  calmly speak with the patient. Instead of following training, police yelled at David. He was given opposing commands to put up his hands, put down the baby. He was not told he was under arrest. Confused by the contradictory orders, David raised his daughter up over his head and began to walk to the street. He wanted to be with his family. David and the police negotiators wanted a peaceful resolution. As he walked to the street an officer armed with a military assault rifle yelled at him. From across the street another officer armed with an assault rifle joined in the chorus of shouts. David turned to go back to the safety of the home.

The two officers fired their military assault rifles striking David down after he took 3 to 4 steps back towards the home. He was immediately paralyzed and fell forward. David lost his grip on his daughter and she flew down hitting her head on the concrete front walkway. Police, unbelievably, then DRAGGED David's paralyzed body hundreds of yards over rocks and gravel, ripping through his skin, exposing bone.
Police Claims.

Police  claimed that the baby was bleeding from her ear when David first walked out of the house. Police claimed they saw blood on the front of David’s shirt. Police claimed that the left side of David’s daughter’s face was deformed and there was blood mixed with mucous coming from her nose. Police claimed that the little girl slid down the front of David and fell from his knee. She fell, police claimed, on the gravel of the front yard. Police told the news media that blood was found inside of the house. Police told medical staff attending to both David and his daughter that David held the girl upside down and threatened to pile drive her into the ground causing police to shoot him. Police dragged David, paralyzed, more than 100 yards over rocks and rough terrain, ripping through his skin and exposing his kneecaps.

Police said David would be arrested when he recovered.  They asked the county prosecutor to charge David with kidnapping and child abuse.

Caught On Tape.

Police were unaware for almost two hours after the shooting that the family’s neighbor had videotaped the entire event, including David's attempt at surrender, and the shooting. There was no blood inside the house. There was no blood on the front of David’s shirt. His daughter was not bleeding from either of her ears. But because police told the hospital and Child Protective Services that the little girl was bleeding before David was shot, the little girl was subjected to full body scanning. That proved police fabricated their story. There was no evidence of abuse. 
David is a Victim.

Police have asked that David be criminally charged with aggravated assault, kidnapping and child abuse.  Scottsdale police department's claim that David injured his daughter inside the home was without a basis.  The former Maricopa County Medical Examiner commented that the daughter’s injury was consistent with being caused by falling to the concrete walkway.  The truth that she fell after her father was shot made its way into medical records, despite the false statements made by police officers.  And, the photographic evidence proves how she was injured.

David himself asked  the prosecutor’s office to tell a grand jury the facts, and asked that the two officers who shot him be charged.  Officers who were sworn to protect him, but instead fabricated a crisis situation, then shot him in the back multiple times, ripped skin from his knees -- clear to his bone --  left him paralyzed for life, then created a fictional account for the media about what happened.

Deaths in Custody: Deliberate Indifference to Ferdinand Dix.

For those of you who think that the health care in prison is free and guaranteed, think again. Medical co-pays can cost a weeks' pay, and the negligence one must contend with inside costs prisoners plenty. This is why the ACLU National Prison Project and the Prison law Office are about to sue the State of Arizona.

After receiving the following video, I asked the sender how she knew him:

"He was my brother.  I spent 36 hours watching him die in a hospital in Tucson, shackled hand and foot to the hospital bed, even though he was basically vegetative/comatose and had tubes coming out of every orifice – and I mean every one of them.  It was very sad and painful to see.  I just could not believe how he looked, with his belly so distended, filled with tumors in his liver.  I could not understand how anyone inside that Tucson prison could see a man, like my brother, walking around that prison complex looking like he looked and not instinctively known or felt like: "Hey, that inmate needs to see a doctor and get some serious treatment!"  I just can't believe that people like that exist.   Just where do they find these people who work within the AZDOC?  Did no one who examined him in the medical clinic think that his belly looked a bit odd?  Did they bother to touch it, particularly given his complaints about not being able to eat?  My mother was just now telling me how she remembers in some of his letters and phone conversations he would say, "Momma, I'm just so hungry and I can't eat anything."  Peggy, his liver was so big it had literally compressed his digestive organs and made it such that he could not eat.  Can you imagine a human being walking around like that, for Lord knows how long, feeling so hungry and feeling like nothing was being or could be done about it?"

video by Michelle Lependorf

Survivors of police and prison violence, abuse, and institutional indifference are often isolated, and may be vulnerable to state oppression if prisoners or their survivors try to sue for violations of their civil rights. Please, if you find yourself in that situation, contact me (Peggy at 480-580-6807 / I can put you in touch with other families for support, we can work on getting your narrative out there, so there's more than just a criminal record or mugshot telling your loved one's story, you can help in the larger fight against state violence.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Feds neglect sex/violent crime prosecutions in Indian Country.

Not that I approve of the way the DOJ intervenes in Indigenous affairs when it does, but this is unacceptable. The Director of the Office for Tribal Justice for the Justice Department on Indigenous affairs is Tracy Toulou. Complain about this to him. The contact info there is: 

 U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Tribal Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001

cc all copies of your correspondence with them to the reporter covering this at the New York Times, which just published the article below, so he can get a sense of how the public is responding to the DOJ's neglect. This guy Timothy Williams has done some good reporting - check him out here.

Here's the link to the Justice Department's data on crime and justice in indigenous communities. Keep in mind that's also an arm of the propaganda campaign about how great Eric Holder and the DOJ are - don't believe everything you read there as an objective "fact".

Not everything about the incidence of violence in Indian Country - or the rest of the nation, for that matter - can or should be addressed with police and prosecution - by then, someone else has already been hurt. INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence has a lot of excellent resources about alternative justice systems, prison abolition, and violent crime from the perspective of survivors of oppression. 

 We need to build a better library of resources and knowledge here on tribal justice, too. Folks with resources more specific to Indigenous communities and justice are encouraged to drop me a line so I can pass them on. I'm Peggy at


Higher Crime, Fewer Charges on Indian Land

Indian reservations across the United States have grappled for years with chronic rates of crime higher than all but a handful of the nation’s most violent cities. But the Justice Department, which is responsible for prosecuting the most serious crimes on reservations, files charges in only about half of Indian Country murder investigations and turns down nearly two-thirds of sexual assault cases, according to new federal data. 

The country’s 310 Indian reservations have violent crime rates that are more than two and a half times higher than the national average, according to data compiled by the Justice Department. American Indian women are 10 times as likely to be murdered than other Americans. They are raped or sexually assaulted at a rate four times the national average, with more than one in three having either been raped or experienced an attempted rape. 

The low rate of prosecutions for these crimes by United States attorneys, who along with agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation generally have jurisdiction for the most serious crimes on reservations, has been a longstanding point of contention for tribes, who say it amounts to a second-class system of justice that encourages law breaking. Prosecutors, however, say they turn down most reservation cases because of a lack of admissible evidence. 

Brendan Johnson, the United States attorney for South Dakota, said the government in recent years has deployed extra prosecutors and F.B.I. agents to Indian Country. And the Justice Department says it is seeking to make its decisions more transparent. Impatience on reservations is understandable, Mr. Johnson said. 

“If I had the rates of crime in my community that they do, I’d be mad, too,” he said.
But tribes say they are rarely told why reservation cases are not pursued by the government. 

“One of the basic problems is that not only are they declining to prosecute cases, but we are not getting the reason or notification for the declination,” said Jerry Gardner of the Tribal Law and Policy Institute in West Hollywood, Calif., which works with tribes to develop justice programs. “The federal system takes a long time to make a decision, and when it comes to something like a child sexual assault, the community gets the message that nothing is being done.” 

Under federal law, tribal courts have the authority to prosecute tribal members for crimes committed on reservations, but cannot sentence those convicted to more than three years in prison. As a result, tribes usually seek federal prosecution for serious crimes. 

Frustration has grown so acute that some tribal members have sued the government for declining prosecutions and for what they say is the related issue of sloppy police work. 

Last month, a federal court in Montana allowed the family of Steven Bearcrane of the Crow Reservation to sue an F.B.I. agent who Mr. Bearcrane’s parents say conducted a flawed homicide investigation into their son’s death at 23. The lawsuit also said the United States attorney’s office has a practice of rejecting criminal cases in which the victims are Native Americans. 

The Justice Department said it has made headway in resolving conflicts with tribes, pointing to a directive to United States attorneys to work more closely with tribal leaders and to the Tribal Law and Order Act, approved by Congress in 2010, which sought to strengthen tribal law enforcement systems. 

But Tao Etpison, former chief judge of the Tonto Apaches in Arizona, said federal prosecutors typically live, work and try cases hundreds of miles from Indian Country. And at times, according to federal data, the Justice Department declines to prosecute violent reservation crime because local United States attorneys have said they lack sufficient resources. “These crimes are very serious for the reservation, but the prosecutors really don’t see it from a reservation perspective,” Mr. Etpison said. 

Federal prosecutors in 2011 declined to file charges in 52 percent of cases involving the most serious crimes committed on Indian reservations, according to figures compiled by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University, which uses the Freedom of Information Act to recover and examine federal data. 

The government did not pursue rape charges on reservations 65 percent of the time last year and rejected 61 percent of cases involving charges of sexual abuse of children, the federal data showed. In contrast, the Justice Department declined 20 percent of drug trafficking cases nationwide, according to the federal figures. 

Once federal prosecutors do decline a case, they seldom hand over evidence to tribal courts, according to the Government Accountability Office. An office report last year also found that federal prosecutors fail to tell tribes that they have declined cases until after the tribe’s statute of limitations has expired. 

Federal prosecutors, however, say they seek to provide as much information as possible to tribes about cases they decline, though they are often limited because the cases may be reopened later. 

Kerry J. Jacobson, an assistant United States attorney in Wyoming, said undertaking tribal prosecutions while the government decides whether it will file charges would create more problems than it would solve. 

“We can’t turn over our evidence while we are doing our investigation,” she said. “And I don’t want victims of sexual assault to have to testify twice.” 

Much of the time, however, victims do not testify at all. 

On the San Carlos Reservation in Arizona, Mr. Etpison, the former tribal judge, said federal prosecutors had declined to pursue at least 40 sexual assault cases in recent years, most of them involving children. 

Thomas W. Weissmuller, a former chief judge for several tribes, said he presided over a trial on the Swinomish Reservation in Washington State in which a 31-year-old man was accused of pouring root beer schnapps into the root beer of a girl who had recently turned 13. The girl, unaware of the alcohol, drank the soda and passed out. The man covered her face with her own clothes and raped her. 

Mr. Weissmuller said that in spite of a DNA match and statements from two relatives who interrupted the attack, federal prosecutors did not file charges. 

Though convicted of rape in tribal court, the man served only one year in jail — the maximum penalty in the tribal system at the time. The Justice Department declined to discuss the case. 

“I don’t know why it wasn’t prosecuted federally,” Mr. Weissmuller said. “I believe it was a very clear-cut case.”

AZ DOC: Sexual Harassment settlement.

As I was saying, the corrosion at the Department of Corrections is deep and damages not only prisoners but also staff. This is bigger than just Chuck Ryan - prisons poison the entire social framework; we'd be better off without them. Unfortunately, Arizona is planning on not only 2,000 new medium security private prison beds, but also 500 new maximum security beds at Lewis to accommodate the growing numbers of mentally ill prisoners the state wishes to torture.

Here's the link to the last big Az DOC sexual harassment settlement...


Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs
Thursday, February 23, 2012
Justice Department Settles with Arizona Department of Corrections Resolving Sexual Harassment Allegations
WASHINGTON - The Justice Department announced today that it has entered into a consent decree with the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) that, if approved by the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, will resolve allegations that the ADC discriminated against a female employee, based upon her sex, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended.

The department’s complaint, filed today along with the consent decree, alleges that Susan Peterson, a female correctional officer at the Arizona State Prison Complex in Tucson, Ariz., was regularly subjected to verbal and physical sexual harassment by several of her male supervisors and coworkers from early 2005 through November 2008.  That conduct included unwelcome grabbing, touching, hugging and kissing, as well as exposure to sexually explicit comments and pornography.  The complaint alleges that despite Peterson’s timely and repeated complaints to ADC management about the harassment over a nearly three year period, ADC did not investigate her complaints or take any corrective action until November 2008.  The department’s complaint was based on a charge of discrimination filed by Peterson with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that was forwarded to the department by the EEOC’s Phoenix District Office.

Under the terms of the consent decree, which must still be approved by the federal district court, ADC is required to review and revise its sexual harassment policies to protect its employees from sexual harassment and must provide training on equal employment opportunity law and its sexual harassment policies to all employees at its Tucson complex.  The consent decree also requires the ADC to pay Peterson a monetary award of $182,500.

“All Americans are guaranteed the right to work in an environment free from unlawful harassment and retaliation,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.  “The department is pleased that we were able to work cooperatively with the Arizona Department of Corrections to resolve this matter without the need for contested litigation.”

The enforcement of Title VII is a priority of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Additional information about the Civil Rights Division is available at and

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Mental Illness in Maricopa's CJ System: FEB SMI Commission meeting.

This would be a good place to come talk to decision-makers about the high rate of suicide and homicide among state prisoners with serious mental illness in Arizona these days. I asked them to investigate this the last time they met, which was apparently last May. I don't think they looked into a thing all this time, but we'll see. it's not on the agenda, but Mary Lou Brncik of David's Hope will be there talking this time, so she will also hopefully prod them to take a look at the prisons. Also note that the Director of the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections, Charles Flanagan, will be there too.


Maricopa County Commission of Justice System Intervention for the Seriously Mentally Ill

Commission Meeting Agenda

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

10:00 a.m.
Meeting Location
125 W. Washington Street (Old Courthouse)
6th Floor Central Conference Room

  1. Call to Order (Sup. Stapley)
  1. Approval of minutes from May 10, 2011 meeting
  1. Mental Health and Co-occurring Disorder Needs
         for ADJC population (Director Charles Flanagan) – 25 min 
  1. Changes in Maricopa County crisis system (Justin Chase) – 10 minutes
  1. H3 effort update (Nick Margiotta) – 5 min
  1. Legislative update (Emily Jenkins) – 5 minutes
  1. Roundtables sponsored by David’s Hope (Mary Lou Brncik) – 5 min
  1. Additional SMI Issues for Discussion (Sup. Stapley)
  1. Next Meeting (Sup. Stapley)
  1. Call to the Public – Commission Member Comments on current events
  Interested persons may address the Commission, up to three minutes each.

------------Minutes from the last meeting-----------

MINUTES of the Maricopa County Commission of Justice System Intervention for the Seriously Mentally Ill
Tuesday, May 10, 2011 – 10:00 a.m.
125 W. Washington St., Phoenix
Old Courthouse – 6th floor Central Conference Room

Commission Members in Attendance
: Supervisor Max Wilson, Co-Chair; Senator Nancy Barto; Lee Ann Bohn; Dr. Carlos Carrera; Shelley Curran; Elizabeth Evans; Lynne Lagarde; Judge MaryAnne Majestic; Nick Margiotta; Barbara Marshall; Judge Rosa Mroz; Jeremy Mussman; Dr. Laura Nelson; Dr. Dawn Noggle; Dr. Carol Olson; MaryEllen Sheppard; Therese Wagner

Other Persons in Attendance: Karen Hellman – AZ Dept of Corrections; Paula Collins – Maricopa County Superior Court; Tammy Wray, Fredrica Strumpf, Josephine Jones – Maricopa County Public Defender; Anne Ronan – AZ Center for Law in the Public Interest; Arely Benitez, Jessica Wright – Save the Family; Dianna Kalandros – Pinal County Superior Court; David Gallagher – AZ Addiction Treatment Program; Tresa Floyd – Maricopa County Health Care for the Homeless; Barb Lukeman – People of Color Network Outreach; Jessica Berg, Laura DiTroia – Lodestar Day Resource Center; Mary K Reinhart – AZ Republic; Amy Schwabenlender – Valley of the Sun United Way; John Gallagher – Dept of Behavioral Health Services; Margaret Plews – Arizona Prison Watch; Wayne Hochstrasser – Triple R Behavioral Health; Tom McKelvery – New Arizona Family Inc; Steve Carter – NOVA; Vicki Helland – Community Bridges; Michael Donnelly – REN; David Bridge – Human Services Campus; Laurel Rettle – Cenpatico; Sherrie Fraley – MIHS; Amy Rex - County Manager’s Office/Staff to Commission

1. Call to Order

Supervisor Max Wilson, Co-Chair, called the meeting to order at 10:10am. He stated Supervisor Stapley was not able to attend but asked that he welcome two new members from Adult Probation – Therese Wagner and Steve Lessard. He also extended sincere thanks to the two previous Adult Probation members – Penny Stinson and Rebekah Trexler.

2. Approval of minutes from December 7, 2010: 

There were no changes or additions noted. A motion was moved by Shelley Curran, seconded by Jeremy Mussman, and unanimously passed by the Commission to approve these minutes.

3. Budget Impacts for Nontitle XIX:

Supervisor Wilson welcomed Dr. Laura Nelson to review budget impacts. She reviewed FY11 activities, then explained actions taken since July 1, 2010 to monitor the impact of the budget reductions. DHS/DBHS has identified trigger points for evaluating impacts on Non-Title XIX/XXI SMI, including fiscal tracking, complaint tracking, quality of care concerns, and mortalities. There have been no significant spikes in complaint tracking
although a recent increase in quality of care concerns is being investigated. Various aspects related to crisis services also are being watched; call volume has seen a very slow increase while complaint tracking is up and down. Crisis services facility diversion is nearly zero.

Looking ahead to FY12 and Medicaid Reform, there is uncertainty as the State waits for approval on certain requests. Discussion took place regarding these various options that may be implemented (freeze enrollment, mandatory co-pays, no-show penalties, 25 day inpatient limit – although does not apply to behavioral health – and 5% rate reduction).

4. SMI services on the Human Services Campus:

Supervisor Wilson invited David Bridge to discuss the Human Services Campus. David offered a brief background and introduced a variety of people who help provide services on campus. They each provided an overview of what their organization offers:

Ken Curry with Southwest Behavioral Health
Brandi McBride with People of Color Network
Vicki Helland with Community Bridges
Steve Carter with NOVA Safe Haven
Michael Donnelly with REN (Recovery Empowerment Network)

5.Permanent Supportive Housing:

Supervisor Wilson asked Amy Schwabenlender to discuss permanent supportive housing. Amy explained that while United Way is excited to lead the effort, they do need help and partnerships to be successful. The goal is to have 1000 units of housing by 2015. She discussed current and upcoming projects to meet that goal.

6. Additional SMI Issues for Discussion: None were mentioned.

7. Next Meeting: Tentatively August 2011.

8. Call to Public/Commission Member comments:

Jeremy Mussman – property is often destroyed when an inmate is sentenced to DOC. Jessica Burg with Human Services Campus will talk with him about holding this property.

Peggy Plews – asked that the Commission look at what is happening in prisons; many who are abused are mentally ill.

Tracy Floyd – with MC Healthcare for Homeless. Need to address gaps, especially the lack of enough Non-Title XIX psychiatric services on campus.

9. Adjourn: Supervisor Wilson declared the meeting adjourned at 11:30 a.m..

Presented to the Commission by Staff:
Amy A. Rex, Criminal Justice Project Mgr
Approved by the Commission:
Supervisor Don Stapley, Commission Chair

ASPC-Tucson deaths in custody: Christopher Rankhorn, 31.

Last May, four young Arizona state prisoners died under suspicious circumstances all within a week or so of eachother. One of those young men was 31 year old Christopher Rankhorn. The media never followed up on the cause of his death - from what his family told me, though, it sounds like he overdosed on his psych meds and the ADC ruled it "accidental". 

Christopher's medication at the time he died was Neurontin (aka gabapentin), an apparently increasingly common drug in the state prisons. Originally developed as an anti-convulsant and marketed to alleviate some kinds of neuralgia, Neurontin is also being used as a pain management tool where narcotics are restricted or prohibited, and as a mood stabilizer in the treatment of manic-depression. And, what I've been seeing of late, Neurontin is still a major drug of abuse in the prisons, even though it's got a very low abuse potential out here. 

Why is it still being prescribed for everything under the sun in there, then? It's even been pulled from other prison systems because of the dangers of its abuse behind bars. There's also an ugly history of increased suicide risk with Neurontin - something the AZ Department of Corrections should be especially careful about, given that they've doubled in the past 3 years. In fact, all the off-label use of that drug should be questioned.

Since it's pushed as a pain-reliever, some folks may have expectations for the high they should get from it, and when it isn't forthcoming they increase their dosage until they get the desired effect. Neurontin is not the drug to do that with, guys! They're giving it to you precisely because it doesn't work that way - and because I think it's being used to treat some of you for mental illness without your knowledge or consent. 

I also suspect that Neurontin is being increasingly prescribed in prisons to see how it works as a behavior management tool on a broader population, so if you don't need it or know why you're taking it, question your doctor about the need to be taking it at all - and don't waste your money or resources buying this shit on the yard like it's a narcotic or something. All the drugs in there serve primarily to manage you for the state - especially the heroin: it keeps you too high and stupid to organize collectively against the powers that really oppress you. Be a real revolutionary and stay away from that stuff if you want to be free.

Our condolences go out to Christopher's loved ones.  

Prison Abolition and Survivors of Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence

I really want prisoners to weigh in on this issue, and they've made an invitation by accommodating entries in handwriting and encouraging the distribution of this call-out in print, so if you have loved ones in jail or prison who are survivors of violence, please print this up and send it to them. If they mail their submission back to me (Arizona Prison Watch/ PO Box 20494 / PHX, AZ 85036) I'll turn it in. 

DUE DATE: APRIL 15, 2012

Some really good resources on anti-violence and the prison industrial complex are available at:



Working Title: Challenging Convictions: Survivors of Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Writing on Solidarity with Prison Abolition.

Completed submissions due: April 15, 2012.

Like much prison abolition work, the call for this anthology comes from frustration and hope: frustration with organizers against sexual assault and domestic violence who treat the police as a universally available and as a good solution; frustration with prison abolitionists who only use “domestic violence” and “rape” as provocative examples; and, frustration with academic discussions that use only distanced third-person case studies and statistics to talk about sexual violence and the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC). But, this project also shares the hope and worth of working toward building communities without prisons and without sexual violence. Most importantly, it is anchored in the belief that resisting prisons, domestic violence, and sexual assault are inseparable.

Organizers of this anthology want to hear from survivors in conversation with prison abolition struggles. We are interested in receiving submissions from survivors who are/have been imprisoned, and survivors who have not.  Both those survivors who have sought police intervention, as well as those who haven't, are encouraged to submit. We are looking for personal essays and creative non-fiction from fellow survivors who are interested in discussing their unique needs in anti-violence work and prison abolitionism.

Discussions of sexual assault, domestic violence, police violence, prejudice within courts, and imprisonment cannot be separated from experiences of privilege and marginalization. Overwhelmingly people who are perceived to be white, straight, able-bodied, normatively masculine, settlers who are legal residents/citizens, and/or financially stable are not only less likely to experience violence but also less likely to encounter the criminal injustice system than those who are not accorded the privileges associated with these positions. At the same time, sexual assault and domestic violence support centers and shelters are often designed with certain privileges assumed. We are especially interested in contributions that explore how experiences of race, ability, gender, citizenship, sexuality, or class inform your understandings of, or interactions with cops, prisons, and sexual assault/domestic violence support.

Potential topics:

·      What does justice look like to you?
·      Perspectives on police and prisons as a default response to sexual assault
·      What do you want people in the prison abolition movement with no first hand experiences of survivorship to know?
·      How did you overcome depression/feelings of futility when dealing with these systems?
·      Critical reflections on why the legal system has or has not felt like an option for you
·      Perspectives on the cops/PIC participating in rape culture
·      Restorative justice and other methods for responding to sexual violence outside of the PIC? (if you are a settler be conscious of appropriations of indigenous methods)
·      How have you felt about conversations you’ve had about the PIC?
·      How sexual assault inside and outside of the PIC is treated by organizers against sexual assault, domestic violence, and the PIC
·      Police and prison guards as triggers
·      Responding to sexual assault and domestic violence when communities weren’t there for you
·      What the legal system offers survivors and what it doesn’t
·      Rants at manarchists, the writers/directors of televised cop dramas, and communities that let you down
·      Survivor shaming for reporting and for not reporting to police

Please submit first-person accounts, critical reflections, essays, and creative non-fiction to by April 15, 2012 with “Submission” as the subject line.


·      One submission per person;

·      English language (American spelling);
·      Pseudonyms welcomed, as are name changes in the written piece.

If you have access to a computer:
     ·      12 point Times New Roman font;
·      Submit as an attached document (.doc files preferred).

Passing this on to someone without computer access:
·      We accept scans of hand written letters (please include contact info for the author);
·      Contact us if you require a mailing address.

Early submissions are encouraged. First time authors encouraged.

If you have questions, we welcome emails to with “Question” in the subject line. We are looking for both shorter pieces of writing and longer pieces, but if your piece is more than 20 pages consider sending us an email to run the idea by us.

Please attach a short biography that you are comfortable sharing with the editors (200 word max.). This is not about your credentials, but getting to know you and where you are coming from. All information you provide will be kept confidential.

About selection and editing: Submissions will be reviewed by a group of readers who will consider if and how each written piece could contribute to the finished project. Each piece will be read by at least two readers who will contribute to the decision to accept/reject/edit the piece. Some of us working on this project have been made to feel alone as both survivors and abolitionists. Some of us have managed to carve spaces within these communities. Now we are looking to open the conversation and hear from people we’ve never met, who have struggled to practice politics in a rape culture and police state. We believe that the needs of survivors matter in these movements, and we don’t need someone else to speak for us or about us as case studies and numbers. We want to hear from you.

For more information please visit:

Please distribute widely.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

ASPC-Tucson Deaths in Custody: Ferdinand Dix.

Ferdinand Dix was given six years in Arizona's state prisons for drug crimes and forgery, but he suffered and died horribly from cancer over the course of his first two years behind bars. He died on Valentine's Day of last year. His mother narrates his suffering most poignantly in her lawsuit against the state of Arizona and ADC Director Charles Ryan for gross neglect...I'm only including the pertinent excerpts.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Dear Governor Brewer: Time to FIRE Chuck Ryan.

Many folks wonder what I do with the art I create, and why I bother chalking sidewalks when they just get washed off once I leave. The chalkings are multi-functional: they leave a message for the person or entity whose walk I'm chalking, and when I shoot them they deliver my message all over the world on Facebook and my blogs. I have a really cheap, crummy camera, so I learned to make the most of it by manipulating the colors to make these postcards with. I send them to decision-makers, allies, prisoners, media, etc. to raise awareness and show solidarity and struggle with those suffering the most. Feel free to download any of my art and do the same. I do this all with nothing more complex than the Windows image editing program that came with Vista.

We do still have a crisis in the prisons, by the way. The ACLU is about to sue over medical neglect, but the culture of contempt for prisoners and the pervasive despair and violence behind bars is unchecked. It's a poison that trickles from the top down. By far, those dying are the most vulnerable among us - not the vicious punks or molesters people think are the ones who get it in prison, and therefore don't care about. Those committed to protecting the rights of the mentally ill and developmentally disabled in the community should especially care about what's happening in the state prisons, because that's where so many are still heading.

This is what I did with the mural Kini Seawright and I did yesterday at the Herberger - her son was murdered for loving a Mexican. Brewer needs to be held accountable, too: All these deaths after all, are not only Chuck Ryan's - they're hers - and the longer she leaves him in charge the more culpable she is for the next suicide or homicide of someone's child, mother, brother, or friend in prison.

Anyone who is similarly moved to communicate with the Governor may want to do so in a public forum, so you can't be as easily ignored. 

The address for the Arizona Republic is: 

 Letters to the Editor
The Arizona Republic
P.O. Box 1950
Phoenix, AZ 85001

Letters may also be faxed to (602) 444-8933.Or contact them via the on-line form.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Fight Prison Violence: FIRE CHUCK RYAN.

My friend, Kini, and I went down to the Herberger Theater in downtown Phoenix this morning, and chalked a huge mural on their Van Buren Street sidewalk - which happens to be facing the Arizona Republic Building. We hoped it would get someone's attention there, but they tend to ignore me so as not to encourage my protests. It's okay - we got what we needed and left. I'll catch up with them via the US Mail.

Kini's son, Dana Seawright, was murdered in Lewis Prison in July 2010; chalking a memorial for her son and the other prisons who have died in the custody of the Arizona Department of Corrections under Chuck Ryan and Jan Brewer was pretty personal. We both agree that in order to stop this body count from climbing, Chuck and his henchmen must leave NOW. The poison, the contempt for prisoners and their families, begins there and trickles down.

Anyway, we set out on this morning's mission because this was Occupy 4 Prisoners day across the country. This is how our own small action turned out - it made for some awesome postcards about deaths in custody. 

Thanks to Patty at the Herberger today, by the way, for appreciating what we were trying to do and not washing it up as soon as we left. Sorry to leave you such a big job to clean up.

these were both shots taken of the sidewalk from the roof, courtesy of the good people at the Herberger.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Prison health care crisis and prospective privatization

We haven't talked a lot about the privatization of prison health care services yet because of so much other stuff going on - and because the state has done such a poor job itself of delivering health and mental health care. But this is an issue we need to watch, especially with so many suicides despite the Prison Law Office and ACLU National Prison Project's lawsuit ready to go.

A good source of information about privatization of prisons and correctional services is the Private Corrections Working Group. Here are their "rap sheets" (from news articles) for the private correctional heath providers named below:

Corizon, Inc

As I recall from previous research, under Wexford Health Serivces' contract with the state of Mississippi, the prisoner mortality rate skyrocketed. Mississippi apparently contracted with them despite New Mexico cancelling contracts because of poor service and unnecessary deaths.

-------thank you, Arizona Republic and Bob Ortega-----

Arizona prisons in health-care quandary

The Arizona Department of Corrections, under orders to privatize its troubled prison health-care system, faces a questionable choice.

The department is expected shortly to award a three-year contract to provide medical and mental-health care for the nearly 34,000 inmates in Arizona's 10 state-run prisons.
Lawmakers adopted legislation two years ago and revised it last year, requiring Corrections to privatize the health-care system regardless of whether it saves money. But the choices are between two companies with checkered records and a third company that has no track record in correctional health care.

Corizon Inc. of Brentwood, Tenn., a privately held company, is the country's largest provider of correctional medical care, operating at 400 prisons and jails in 31 states, with a total prison population of about 400,000. Corizon formed last June out of the merger of the parent companies of Correctional Medical Services and PHS Correctional Health Care, previously fierce rivals. Both Corizon's CMS and PHS sides have repeatedly run into problems providing adequate health care in other states.

Last November, the Maine Legislature's Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability issued a study blasting Corizon's CMS unit, saying that more than 50 percent of inmates' medical records checked by auditors had errors and that there were no records for more than 10 percent of inmates treated.
The Maine study also reported CMS failed to respond to sick calls, provide dental services and physicals in a timely manner, had persistent problems issuing prescribed medicines properly and hadn't trained staff properly, among other problems.

Over 12 months ending in June, Idaho fined Corizon's CMS unit more than $270,000 for a wide range of medical- and mental-health-care shortfalls, including staffing shortages. Public documents released to the Associated Press said CMS, though it was supposed to fill vacancies within 60 days, left the South Boise Women's Correctional Center without an Ob/Gyn for more than two years and left another maximum-security prison without a staff psychologist for more than eight months.

Since 2005, Corizon's CMS or PHS have lost contracts or failed to win renewals with prison systems in four states, each with seven to 24 prisons: Vermont (2005), Alabama (2007), Delaware (2010) and Maryland (2010). Additionally, Corizon's units also lost contracts at individual county jails in Galveston County, Texas (2007), Pima County, Ariz. (2008), and Monroe County, N.Y. (2010).

In almost every case, the contract losses followed allegations by correctional or county officials that the company failed to provide adequate health care. Pima County officials withheld $1.3 million in payments over staffing and health-care problems.

"I have huge issues with the quality of the staff, the quality of the care. ... Their whole goal is how not to do any work," Pima County Superior Court Judge Nanette Warner said of the company during a court hearing in 2008, according to the Arizona Daily Star.

Corizon officials declined to respond to specific questions about these issues or allegations. Spokeswoman Courtney Eller said that "Corizon has a strong track record of quality care, and we are committed to continuously working to improve and get better at what we do."

Wexford Health Sources Inc. of Pittsburgh, also privately held, contracts with 100 prisons and jails, holding about 91,000 inmates in 10 states. That includes a contract with Yavapai County in Arizona to provide medical services at the county jail. Yavapai County also has contracted with Wexford since 2010 to run a small program to restore mental competency for defendants awaiting trial.

Assistant Yavapai County Administrator Dave Hunt said officials have been satisfied with both programs.
Wexford doesn't have as long a record as Corizon of losing contracts, but there are issues. Wexford was implicated in a 2008 payoff scandal in which the former corrections director for Illinois, Donald Snyder, was sentenced to two years in federal prison after he admitted taking a $30,000 bribe from Wexford's lobbyist, Larry Sims, to steer business to Wexford.

No Wexford official was charged in the case. The company declined to comment on the scandal. However, in 2008, a spokeswoman denied to the Chicago Tribune, any company involvement in the bribe.

Wexford also lost a contract in New Mexico in 2007, after an audit by that state's Legislative Finance Committee reported shortages of physicians, dentists and optometrists on staff and noted that the company had failed to issue timely reports on 14 inmates who died at correctional facilities in 2006. That same year, a Mississippi legislative committee reported that Wexford wasn't complying with its contract and had not filled 13 percent of the positions it was required to by contract at three prisons. Wexford officials also declined to comment on the staffing and care issues in those reports, or to respond to questions from The Republic in any manner.

The third bidder, Centurion LLC, was incorporated in Arizona in December, shortly before its bid was submitted. Centurion is a unit of Centene Corp. of Clayton, Mo., a publicly traded Fortune 500 company and the country's fourth-largest Medicaid-claims manager. Centene reported $111 million in profits on $5.2 billion in revenue last year. Centene also filed incorporation papers for Centurion in recent months in Georgia and North Carolina. Centene officials declined to comment on their bids or on their entry into correctional health care.

It isn't clear whether Centene's Centurion unit can meet Arizona's contract requirement that the successful bidder must have five years or more of experience in the past 10 years providing medical- or mental-health services to at least 10,000 daily patients in a correctional or custodial setting.

Arizona Department of Corrections officials declined to comment on when the department may award a contract. But there are just as many questions about the caliber of care the department currently offers. As soon as next week, a legal coalition representing Arizona inmates is expected to file suit in federal court alleging that the department has systematically and unconstitutionally denied medical care to inmates for weeks or months even for severe, life-threatening conditions.

The Prison Law Office, a California legal-advocacy group, outlined allegations in a letter to the department last October, demanding changes in medical care. In November, Corrections officials signed an agreement with the group that delayed legal action and gave the state until Friday to investigate and respond to scores of medical claims.

With that deadline approaching, Corrections spokesman Bill Lamoreaux would comment only that "we are still looking at this matter." Director Charles Ryan said in early December that he didn't see any evidence of systemic problems in the state's medical- or mental-health care for prisoners.

However, as The Republic previously reported, scores of inmates from prisons both public and private around the state have provided letters alleging weeks and months of waiting for even basic health-care services, difficulties getting prescribed medications and other problems.

Also, last fiscal year Arizona's per capita prison suicide rate was more than double the national average, a problem that advocates say reflects inadequate mental-health-care services; and in recent months, suicides appear to be continuing at a similar pace, with three reported in the past month. Since June 1, the department has reported six suicides and nine other deaths that remain under investigation.

Corrections officials have not complied with public-information requests by The Republic for results of the preliminary investigations into any of these deaths.

Nationally, there have been few studies of the impact of privatizing prison medical care. "Part of the problem is that good data is really hard to come by," said Kelly Bedard, an economist at the University of California-Santa Barbara who co-authored a 2007 study analyzing privatization outcomes in 32 states.

She concluded that inmate deaths rose 2 percent for every 20 percent increase in medical-care privatization. "Our results were very clear," she said. But Bedard cautioned that, "theoretically, it could go either way ... just like insurance companies, private providers always have an incentive to say 'no' because they're trying to save money." But she said, at least theoretically, a well-written contract with tough oversight and enforcement could improve care.